Sunday, November 06, 2005

Can someone please explain to me what the hell is happening in France? Ten nights of rioting? When I heard the initial reports and heard that the riots were kicked off by the electrocution of two teenagers, I thought that the rioters were protesting the death penalty. It turns out, however, that the teenagers were accidentally electrocuted while hiding in a power substation while fleeing from the police. I'm not even sure that France has the death penalty (the film La Femme Nikita made it look like France still had the death penalty, but Luc Besson movies are probably not the most accurate way to get your information about the legal systems of foreign countries).
Now the media is saying that the rioters are largely members of France's Muslim and North African immigrant population, and that the rioters are simply upset that they are trapped in a society which is prejudiced against them and which seems incapable of providing them with fair employment opportunities.
Well, it's saddening and a strangely comforting to see that we're not the only country amongst the Western, industrialized nations with some problems in the area of racial inequality. It also strikes me that it's probably a good thing that, for the most part, the American underclass doesn't resort to rioting and burning vehicles as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction. The fact that we don't have rioting in this country may mean that although things in the U.S. are far from perfect, at least people feel that there are some lines of communication open so that discussion can still take place about what needs to be done. When people feel that they've got no other options- I would imagine that's when the rioting begins. Then again, given France's history, maybe the people over there just enjoy a good riot every now and again.
Anyhoo, I don't really understand what's going on over there in France. I thought they just drank wine and nipped on cheese over there.


The League said...

Well, I would point you to the riots in LA in the early 90's post Rodney King, the Watts Riot and the riots in Cleveland and Philadelphia in the past few years before we go patting ourselves on the back.

American reporting was doing a pretty bad job on this one. Firstly, it took several days before the French riots even got a mention. Then, they were referring to the rioters as some sort of French underclass, which was true, but not pointing out that the rioters were mostly Muslim.

The French situation has been a bit of powder keg for a few years. Recall the headscarf incident from a year or two ago? French schools were requiring young Muslim women to NOT wear their headscarves (a sign of Muslim religious piety) in schools. There were near riots during that situation, and, honestly, I have no idea how it resolved itself.

There have just been multiple issues like this for the past few years, and meanwhile, France is forming governmental committees to keep France French. Recall the committee in France to remove English words from the French language?

I'm no international expert, but from having watched the news the past few years, I'd guess these sorts of things are all contributing.

J.S. said...

I wasn't so much patting the U.S. on the back as I was just voicing a sort of "misery loves company" sort of sentiment. I don't think that anyone from our generation will forget the Rodney King riots anytime soon.

The League said...

Yes, but that was way back in the early 90's. For some reason the press doesn't really cover the riots we currently enjoy. The hippies get a lot of coverage everytime they trash a Starbucks in the name of humanity, but there pretty much has to be a G8 summit going on before CNN will give any time to rioting.

And I'm not even sure what you call happened in New Orleans after Katrina.

I guess misery does love company.